Zeev Elkin: No chance of alternative right-wing government, but not because of us

Likud minister pins the blame on Yamina's stance & Blue & White's obstinacy, which will drag the country into elections.

Nitzan Keidar ,

Zeev Elkin
Zeev Elkin
Yonatan Sindel/Flash90

Following the latest round of threats to the stability of the unity government, Arutz Sheva spoke with Higher Education Minister Zeev Elkin (Likud) on Sunday, to discuss recent statements made by the Blue & White party indicating that its members are prepared to dismantle the government if the state budget for 2021 is not passed by the end of the secular year.

“The behavior of Blue & White lacks all sense of national responsibility,” Elkin said. “At the end of the day, I don’t think that what the country needs, in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, and maybe even with another outbreak on the horizon, is to go to elections. Anyone who destroys the government while himself talking about national responsibility and preventing elections – he’s the one dragging us into elections. This is a bizarre development and their behavior seems to indicate a lack of understanding of the way politics works. If we head to elections at a time like this, it’s very likely that Blue & White won’t even pass the electoral threshold.

“No one thinks that we should purposely delay the budget,” he added, “but everyone who understands how the process works knows that it’s impossible to get it done by the end of December. The Finance Minister already gave the order to commence work on the 2021 budget and it’s possible, by working extremely hard, to get it done by February at the earliest. Blue & White’s demand therefore indicates one of two things – either they have no idea how these things work (and that’s entirely possible); or they are making this cynical demand in the full knowledge that it’s impossible to meet it.”

Asked if there exists the possibility of building a different coalition, composed solely of right-wing parties, thus averting elections, Elkin replied: “I don’t think that this is a feasible option in these complex times, especially as [Yamina party leader] Naftali Bennett’s position is very clear – he is opposed to joining such a government and he won’t play along. If Yamina’s position was different, it might have been possible for us to form a government with 61 MKs. But as things stand right now, they think that going to elections is a better idea, and so there’s no possibility of establishing an alternative coalition. So, if this government breaks up, it seems like there’s no other option than elections, even though that’s not what we want.”

When Elkin was asked, as someone who has undertaken secret negotiations in Netanyahu’s name in the past, how well founded is the information that Yamina is not ready to join the government, he answered, “When I say that unfortunately, there’s no chance of establishing a different government composed of just the right-wing parties, I’m not just saying that based on nothing. I have gone into this in depth, and the reason it’s not going to happen is because they don’t want it to happen. It’s not enough for us to want it – they have to want it too.”

He also responded to allegations that the government has failed in its handling of the coronavirus crisis, insisting that, “At the end of the day, when I look at where we’re holding now, I can see that the decisions the government took were the right ones. That doesn’t mean to say that I was delighted with every decision, and there were some decisions that I voted against,” he noted, “but on the whole, we got this right. There were also delays in taking decisions that resulted from lengthy consultations with the experts,” he added, “and I will say this – that I think the current lockdown should have started two weeks before it did.”

Elkin noted that, “Some of the decisions we reached were altered or overruled by the Knesset, which is unfortunate, but that’s how things work in a democracy.” And he pinned some of the blame on Blue & White for failures in dealing with the epidemic, pointing out that, “We also had to coordinate everything with Blue & White, which complicated matters. I think that the process of cutting off the chains of infection hasn’t been effective enough, because we don’t use all the digital means available, unlike the situation in the Far East. When we emerged from the lockdown in May, my recommendation was that using the ‘Magen’ [contact-tracing] app should be made compulsory. This would have helped us to prevent the second wave. Unfortunately, this still isn’t happening due to opposition from the judiciary and the Justice Minister personally,” he summarized, once again highlighting the ongoing tensions with his coalition partners from Blue & White.